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Patient Stories

Military Service Informs Patient Care

Focus on Mental Health, PTSD and Suicide

Edward Peñate, MDiv, and Doug Peñate, MD, are brothers, veterans and Northwestern Medicine employees. While they each have different careers, their experience and skills from the military translate to the care they provide to their patients.

Translating Care to Patients

Rev. Edward Peñate is a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps and the staff chaplain for Palliative Care at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. During his time with the Marine Corps, he experienced many intense situations. In addition to his colleagues, he found an ally in the military’s chaplain. “The emotional and relational support the chaplain provided influenced me to explore caring for others as a career,” Rev. Peñate says.

Once Rev. Peñate returned home, he pursued his career, spent time with family and reconnected with his faith community. “I felt privileged to have the support of my family, friends, faith and a career,” Rev. Peñate says. “Not every veteran has that when they return home, if they are going through tough times.” He also had the support of his brother, who was likewise adjusting to life as a civilian.

Dr. Peñate is a veteran of the U.S. Army and an internist with Northwestern Medical Group. The level of discipline, eagerness, drive and motivation he learned from his responsibilities in the Army now translate to his role as a physician.

“Some people think the military makes you hard core,” Dr. Peñate explains. “I have taken the good parts of my experience and drive it now through medicine.” He sees a number of patients who are also veterans, and he says his understanding of their unique experience helps him to care for them with sensitivity.

Honoring the Fallen

The brothers reconnected with the veteran community in Chicago when they participated in the fifth annual Chicago Veterans Ruck March. The event takes place on Memorial Day weekend through Chicago to honor and remember the service members who were lost at home and on the battlefield.

It also raises awareness for suicide, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and moral injury among veterans. The Ruck March’s 20 miles signifies the 20 veterans who commit suicide each day. Participants carry heavy backpacks on the journey to symbolize the emotional weight that veterans carry.

“As we walked through neighborhoods, people were curious about what we were doing, and it was a great opportunity to talk about why we were walking,” Rev. Peñate says.

It took the Peñates about five and a half hours to finish the walk on a hot day. As they do in all aspects of their lives, the Peñate brothers supported each other to make it through the grueling walk and came out stronger together at the end.

“There was a lot of camaraderie at the Ruck March,” Rev. Peñate says. “It was a positive day, and we found that we all connected in some way with similar experiences.”

Remember, suicide has no boundaries. Know the signs and symptoms of PTSD and that help is available.

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